Brian Tome became pastor of Crossroads in 1995, when a group of friends inCincinnati wanted to create a place for their friends who had given up onchurch, but had not necessarily given up on God. Crossroads now hosts morethan 12,000 people and is actively engaged in combating generationalpoverty in Cincinnati’s urban core and battling child sexslavery in India.
His most recent work with Thomas Nelson Publishers is titled Free Book. It urges readers to consider, “You might not be as free as you think you are. Even worse, you may have been duped into believing that a ‘balanced’ life is the key to happiness (it isn’t) or that a relationship with God is about layering on rules and restrictions (nope). The Bible says ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.’ Not fear. Not guilt. Not morality. Not even religion. FREEDOM. The day of freedom is here.” I had the opportunity to talk with Brian a little over a year ago as Free Book released with (at the time) our mutual publisher. After our conversation, he offered me a copy which I read and later reviewed for Relevant Magazine on-line. To read more about Brian’s engaging work check out my Relevant review here: http://bit.ly/k1BCh2
One of my favorite authors and pastors, Greg Boyd, offered some resolute praise for Brian’s book, “FREE BOOK is a remarkably insightful, boldly anti-religious, immensely practical, brutally honest, incredibly entertaining and profound liberating masterpiece!” (click on the book-cover to purchase your copy of Free Book from Amazon)
I have listened to several of Brian’s sermons via podcast and thoroughly enjoyed reading his book. It only takes a few minutes of speaking with him to catch his unrestrainedenthusiasm for life and ministry. When Brian writes about freedom, it is clear he is writing from his heart. I think his parishioners would agree that his passion has enabled Crossroads Church to have a profound impact onour home city of Cincinnati. I frequently come acrosslocal pastors and faith communities that are inspired, supported, and moved to actionthrough the leadership of Crossroads Church. Crossroads has a remarkable story and an even more extraordinary vision for how the Gospel can impact the world — beginning with its ownneighborhood.
You can learn more about Crossroads here: http://www.crossroads.net/
I recently had the chance to talk with Brian about writing, his ministry, the impact his church is making on culture, and his passion to end generational poverty in our community. As has become customary with the remarkable people interviewed here on Friday’s Five Good Answers, Brian went above and beyond the five question motif; I think you will enjoy the conversation:
Matt: So when people hear about the fact that ten people started a church just a little over a decade ago that has grown into a community of over ten thousand — it is difficult to believe. How do you explain Crossroads?
Brian: Actually Crossroads just celebrated our 15th birthday. I’m not sure how I would explain our consistent growth that we’ve had. I think if I had to boil it down I would say that Crossroads has worked hard to eliminate everything other than the central things that people need which are: understanding God’s truth and hearing about a relationship with Jesus in a language they can understand with as few extraneous things as possible. I think we’ve stayed close to that core and there’s been an unbelievable amount of people that have wanted that simple, non religious approach.
Matt: What in your personal faith journey led you to write your Free?
Brian: I’ve had a number born again experiences since I came to know Jesus at the age of 15. One of them, I came to realize that Jesus didn’t come to give me rules or a bus ticket to heaven but he actually came to give me eternal life that starts right now and to enjoy the fullness of His presence right now. And what does that mean, it means to be free. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. This has grown me personally and I finally realized that maybe I could bless others by putting those thoughts or spiritual revelations into the book called Free Book.
Matt: What do you see happening in the Christian faith right now that
really gets you excited?
Brian: I’m excited that people of different denominations and churches are working together. I’m excited how the younger generation isn’t overly excited about denominational titles or even church affiliations but rather the Kingdom of God. I’m excited that I see people taking Jesus’ call seriously to be a blessing to those in poverty by going after the Genesis 12:1 charge to Abraham that we should be a blessing to the world and through these people that come together the world will be blessed.
Matt: As the pastor of such a large community — what is your most important job?
Brian: My most important job by far is having everyone clear on our vision. Having people clear on what God is calling Crossroads to do and what our unique contribution in the Kingdom is by far the most significant. Otherwise, we will just devolve into a large teaching center or worship center or just a large church that people can have their faith validated in. That’s not who we are and every decision we make needs to be reflective of the vision that God has given our unique community which is to connect seekers to a community of growing Christ followers who are changing the world.
Matt: Has there been the single most defining moment, or relationship, or
event in your faith journey?
Brian: I stopped answering this question years ago because I realized there was not going to be a single most defining moment, I continue to have defining moments. I’ve had numerous born again experiences and I believe my greatest born again experiences are yet to come. Certainly a defining moment was coming to know Jesus at the age 15. Another one was understanding a call to ministry. Another one was a reawakening, a rebirthing, of the Kingdom of God and what that means is a reality of right now vs. a future you can walk in to. Another one has been an ongoing filling of the Holy Spirit and a need to walk in His power. My experiences have continued to be fresh and continued to be new and I have no idea of what new ones have yet to come.
Matt: Crossroads has had a huge impact on Cincinnati in the last ten years. If your community could help solve one of the city’s problems tomorrow — what would it be?
Brian: Generational poverty. This is a scourge on our land and something the church is uniquely equipped to do. I see us rising up to fulfill that calling.
Matt: Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the pressures of leading such a large community? How do you handle it?
Brian: I haven’t felt overwhelmed for years. Actually the larger Crossroads has gotten, the easier my job has become because God has risen up different volunteers and staff members that do things I used to be responsible for and now I’m not because they are better than I am. When I do get stressed out, it’s normally about the “what ifs” about the future. For example, what if we do get larger and larger and people use our numbers to validate their need to not take personal responsibility to be contributors, whether that’s volunteering or giving to Crossroads. Or what happens if in the future we bite off a big initiative to help people in poverty and the financial sustainability of that initiative becomes harder and harder to do, what then? I realize these are future vision issues and I realize the only reason I’m feeling overwhelmed is because of fear. I need to be free of fear. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom and I’m not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough worries on its own. Certainly I plan for the future and I think about the future but when I’m overwhelmed, it normally means there is sin in my life that relates to my mindset.
Matt: Your love for being out on your motorcycle is well known. What is something you enjoy doing that your congregation or readers might be surprised to hear?
Brian: At this point, I don’t think I could say anything to surprise people at Crossroads. I pretty much live my life as an open book and people pretty much know who I am. I don’t preach and teach out of my understanding of scripture only, I also preach and teach about what God is doing in me and I believe as a shepherd, I need to be sharing that with people. I don’t want to share only the intellectual understandings I have but the physical things God is doing and leading me to. Therefore, there’s probably not too much people would be surprised to hear about me.
Matt: Who are some of your favorite writers? Maybe one or two who have had a major influence on you?
Brian: If David McCullough is writing a book, I’m reading it. Another author that I find very stimulating is Greg Boyd.
Matt: What have you learned over the process of writing several books? How do you approach the discipline? How has that approach changed?
Brian: What I’ve learned over the process is that I’m not very good at it. I think that God has most gifted me to lead and mobilize a team of people to bless the Kingdom in tactile ways and I think that using your mind to put words on paper is not my strength. I’m not saying I won’t ever do it again but I’m getting a better understanding of my current calling and I’m leaning into that area. What I have learned in writing the two books is to include other people. I’m a team guy. Halfway through the first book, I included other people to help me and it went well so on the second book I did that from day one. So if I do write another book, it will be in the context of team as opposed to me by myself pounding out some wisdom which is really limited and normally not communicated very well.
Matt: I am always impressed with the vision you help shape for Crossroads. What does Crossroads look like ten years from now?
Brian: I can’t define everything that will be happening in Crossroads ten years from now. There are things we are experiencing now nobody would have every envisioned ten years earlier. One thing I can be confident of is that Crossroads will be a larger blessing here in Cincinnati than it is right now. We will see more people come to know faith, we will see people who’ve grown deeper in their faith and as a result of that have been deployed into the Kingdom, and there will be an even more pervasive influence of the Kingdom of God throughout Cincinnati and across the areas of the world in which we focus.
The next few “Friday’s Five Good Answers” will feature: activist and author of Becoming King (a wonderful biographyabout Martin Luther King Jr.), Troy Jackson, as well as Tim Willard & Jason Locy, the authors of Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society.